On Thursday, April 25th, Addiction Policy Forum president Jessica Nickel was the keynote speaker at the One Book, One Community program in Circleville, Ohio. Below is an article written by Steven Collins, staff reporter for the Circleville Herald, on Jessica's presentation: "18 Ways Your Community Can Address the Opioid Epidemic." Click here to view the PDF of Mr. Collins' article.
CIRCLEVILLE—Ahead of the One Book, One Community program at Circleville High School Thursday night, keynote speaker Jessica Nickel held a question and answer session with members of the Pickaway Addiction Action Coalition (PAAC) to discuss the problem of drug abuse in the community.
Nickel, who is president and CEO of the Addiction Policy Forum, discussed areas of economic development, law enforcement, health, education and social aspects of drug addiction.
She explained that there are six pillars of response to ad- diction: prevention, treatment, overdose reversal, recovery support, law enforcement strategies and criminal justice reform.
“They all need equal attention, equal funding and equal services as we go about laying out the framework,” she said.
Nickel said she wasn’t sure if the community was on the right track in eliminating or reducing the problem of drug addiction but said the community is taking some positive steps.
“You have the coalition that has all six pillars repre- sented, you have the heath and health systems and some good treatment providers,” she said. “We’re offering our assistance to come in and help find any gaps. It sounds like there are a few programs, like the sheriff’s program to work with faith based providers to offer treatment for individuals in the jail, you might have a few innovations that we’ve not seen in other cases.”
Nickel said another thing to help curb the problem is to encourage doctors to be part of the solution.
“We have to bring the solution of addition into medicine, not blame the doctors,” she said. “We’ve had these issues, such as alcohol, substance abuse disorder, we need to make sure we bring medicine in and a more integrated patient centered care first that’s going to be at the forefront of drug abuse.”
Nickel said one of the things that needs to happen is educating students and parents of younger ages.
“I would get very aggressive in education and prevention towards parents and caregivers, but also toward the younger ages,” she said.
“I would assess and make sure that you know what your treatment capacity and what your recovery support capacity is and fill in any gaps and make sure families are aware of what’s local,” she said. “Googling for a number of a place that you can’t vouch for in Florida or Arizona does not have to be the answer, nor is a high or very expensive residential treatment. You should figure out how to build the resources at home and get them more connected if appropriate.”
Nickel said an area of focus is to not call it a heroin problem or a cocaine problem or an opiate problem, but that the addiction plan built should target all addiction due to its similarities.
“The system you need to build is for all addiction,” she said. “Sure, opiates have a few nuances, but it’s largely the same.
Another idea to help curb the addiction and drug-related problem is to bring employers in on their employees’ action plan and use it as a lever for change, Nickel said.
“Every medium and large company should have an employee assistance program,” she said. “It’s very expensive to go through the workforce. It can be beneficial to obviously to the employee, their family and children, but for the business and the company and the employee base, too.”
“If you use that leverage of employment for monitoring and treatment compliance, that’s a game changer,” she said. “It’s hard to lose a job, and if they do lose a job or are about to, that can be an intervening moment. That can be a big turning point for someone to address their behavior.” Nickel said addiction is a social contagion passing between family members and peer and social networks.
“(Drug traffickers) have very interesting marketing tactics that can make it spread between peer groups really quickly,” she said. “It’s like a pyramid scheme. Bring more people in with promises of how it will benefit you and bring in a bigger client base on it. I’ve seen companies use it from kitchenware products to beauty products, and drug dealers do a very good job of following those models.” Nickel said, despite how hard it seems to turn around, it’s entirely possible to do so. “You need to take this very seriously as a community and you can change the norms and this will turn around,” she said. “We can fix it, prevent it and intervene earlier and treat it effectively and have better outcomes for our patients.”